From: Jeff Chester, Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy [202-494-7100]
Kathryn C. Montgomery, Ph.D. Professor of Communication, American University. Author of Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet (MIT Press, 2007) [202-885-2680]
Jeff Chester: “Today’s announcement that Facebook users will be able to turn off Beacon, following last week’s opt-in changes, is a step in the right direction. But Mr. Zuckerberg isn’t truly candid with Facebook users. Beacon is just one aspect of a massive data collection and targeting system put in place by Facebook. It’s not really about the company’s desire ‘to build a simple product…lightweight’ that would, as he writes, ‘let people share information across sites with their friends.’ Mr. Zuckerberg’s goal, as he explained on November 6, 2007, was to transform Facebook into ‘a completely new way of advertising online.’ Facebook has rewired its social network to better serve the data collection interests of marketers who, promised Mr. Zuckerberg, are now ‘going to be a part of the conversation’.
“Mr. Zuckerberg can’t simply now do a digital “mea culpa” and hope that Facebook’s disapproving members, privacy advocates, and government regulators will disappear. Nor should Facebook’s brand advertisers permit this statement to diminish the real privacy and security concerns embodied by Facebook’s new targeted ad system. CDD will continue to press U.S. and EU regulators to address Facebook’s significant privacy problem.”
Kathryn Montgomery: “Facebook’s announcement today is a stopgap measure designed to quell the huge public outcry from consumer groups and users over its ill-advised new marketing scheme. The move to allow users to turn Beacon off entirely may restore a small measure of control to Facebook’s members, but it is by no means an adequate safeguard for ensuring privacy protection on this and other social networking platforms. These companies are continuing full steam ahead with new generation of intrusive marketing practices that are based on unprecedented levels of data collection and personal profiling. Regulatory agencies in the U.S. and in Europe need to conduct a thorough investigation of these new forms of social network marketing and develop rules to ensure that consumers are fully protected in the emerging broadband era.”